All the Best and The Greatest Gift of All

Hi everyone.

It’s been a BUSY (past) week and weekend. The Christmas shopping is pretty much done (except for food). Now begins the food buying and prepping since we’ll be hosting a small gathering (10 or so?) on Christmas Day. (It’s all good.)

Liv room--Christmas 2014 ©2014 Joanna Aislinn

Of course, I was keeping this one shorter, and wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa. Here’s to feeling blessed and sharing time, joy and love with all those who matter most to you.

I’m also praying big-time for peace on earth and good will to men (and women, of course), the greatest gift of all.

Funny. I’m certain I’ve heard, read, said or sung those phrases since I’ve been old enough to talk. I was singing it the other day (along with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, to the The Greatest Gift of All,  off their Christmas CD–one of my top-five favorites). It struck me, in this world of horror, terror-filled news, how incredible a gift it would be for people to want good for each other. For the first time, I feel as though I owned those words. I sang them with intent that was new, real and heartfelt in a way I hadn’t fully understood before. (Maybe that’s just part of growing older?)

Anyway, that is what I’m wishing all of you, during the holiday(s) you celebrate. Peace in your hearts and good will toward all those who impact your days. And if you are inclined to do so, please consider praying for those who suffer and for those who wreak evil too. At the very least, the hearts, minds and spirits of the latter are most likely in one heck of a place to do what they do.

On an up note, I’d love to read about how you’ll be spending the holidays. Feel free to list your favorite music too. I linked you too, to my favorite tracks from my top five Christmas CDs. Enjoy!

1. Steven Curtis Chapman–The Magic of Christmas (my #1 favorite song of all time is from this one)

2. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton–Once Upon a Christmas (A Christmas to Remember)

3. Donny Osmond–Christmas at Home (A Soldier’s Christmas)

4. Garth Brooks–Magic of Christmas: Songs from Call Me Claus (Baby Jesus is Born)

5. A Very Special Christmas (Red label–Baby Please Come Home–U2)

sofa--dressed up My sofa, all dressed up (to hide the cat damage, lol). © Joanna Aislinn 2014

Thanks to all of you for your support, your time, and for sharing your thoughts. You are tremendously appreciated.





When Your Gift Says “Love”

Hi all,

Hope the middle of the week finds all of you well, and that you’re not overwhelmed keeping up with all the extra to-do’s the holiday season brings. Hubby had surgery to his other shoulder last week. He’s hanging in there and dealing with the pain and discomfort like a champ. His wife-the-occupational-therapist-by-day gets to treat him with some stretching (and frequent reminders to put the cold pack on). So far, he’s been a pretty good patient.

Younger Son put the decorating-the-house wheels in motion; he’s got Christmas handled both indoors and out. At 16, he’s really into it, and getting better every year at making our home look (almost) better than I can. 😉 As long as he helps pack it up after Little Christmas…

silver tinsel tree

So this past Sunday, Hubby and I met up with my mom. We did our annual trek to purchase grave covers and the Charlie Brown tree we always put up at the cemetery. (You can read about how that tradition started here.)

Because the day before had blessed us with at least three inches of rain, I decided boots—fashion of course 😉 –would be the best choice of footwear. As I slid on and tied my knee-high, lace-up pair, I remembered that these were ‘special’.

Why? Well, I’ve got a small foot and a calf that’s larger than the average person with small feet probably has.

Translation: knee-high boots and I don’t see eye-to-eye on where the zipper should stop closing. 😦

A few years back, I’d come across the pair I wore Sunday at a large retailer. The zip-and-lace-up design accommodated my legs well. Of course, they were out of the half-size-up I prefer when I buy boots. Guess I mentioned to Hubby I would have liked them as a Christmas present.

I got them. He made his way to a branch of that store about 40 minutes away in one of the worst downpours that year to insure I got what I wanted for Christmas.

That says, “I love you,” in my book anyway.

How about you and/or yours? How have you shown—or been shown—love when it comes to gift giving? Do you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Do you have a favorite? What makes it so?

Okay, folks. I’m supposed to be doing paperwork and trying to figure out why I’m having technical issues elsewhere that need attention.

Enjoy your day,


On the Sixth Day of Christmas…

Joanna got it together long enough to wish her family, friends and followers all the best–albeit belated–this holiday season. Last week got away from me—as did this one, with all the hustle and bustle this time of the year is known for. (I always say, clichés are clichés for a reason, folks.)

So, I slowed down between the Eve and the Day to draft this note–see how sidetracked I get?–and finally getting it out here. Hope those of you who celebrated enjoyed a blessed, peaceful and joyful holiday, spent in a way that made YOU happy. If you didn’t, hey, there’s still time. There are six days more until “Little Christmas” (a.k.a. Epiphany).

Christmas tree 2013    Blue tinsel tree 2013

This is about the time of the season when I actually enjoy just sitting and looking at my tree(s). So relaxing. Loved my little tinsel tree too, a Target and Five Below special combo, lol. 

Be well and thanks to each and every one of you for being among the gifts I hold more dear than can be communicated here. Happy New Year too. Be blessed with health, peace and all that you need to follow through on those resolutions.



Vinca Beats the Odds

Happy week of Thanksgiving, everyone. If you’re celebrating (and get to do the cooking), hope your fridge is already housing the bird and all the trimmings. Every year I swear I ain’t messin’ with the fine china, but when else will I use it? (Besides, Christmas, that is. I do really love it and–hey, there is no school and no cooking the day after the holiday, so what the heck, right?)

So maybe I’m a geek or a Pollyanna or a ridiculously positive person (RR is shaking his head yes to all three, I’m quite sure), but I am inspired by things that someone else might not even pay attention to.

Every year, I do some flower gardening. (Hubby is the veggie man.) Every year I try to add one more perennial (i.e., type of plant that comes back with little or no help from me), but there’s always room for an annual or two.  This year though, I hit Lowe’s at the end of the season and came back with a bunch of little flowering plants, but none of the impatiens or vinca I normally add.

IDK, I know annuals come from seeds, lol, but the plant is not supposed to come back, correct? Well, I started the season noticing tiny marigold seedlings mixed into the weeds I call grass on the side of the house. Found at least eleven. Transplanted every one where I normally plant them every year. Got a full spread. Every seedling made it to full growth and blooms. Cleared them out a few weekends ago.

We won’t discuss the sunflowers. Haven’t planted those annuals for at least three years now. Go (1) That wall behind me gets crazier every year. That’s last summer’s photo. Don’t you love how I hide the hips and thighs behind the poster?

Sunflowers These are now the norm. I promise I planted a few seeds several years back.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I thought I saw a vinca sprout peeking from the edge of a little flower bed under a tree on the side of my house. Not sure if it popped up during a few very warm fall days, but uh, that thing was not supposed to grow at all (even though I did have them there last summer, 2012). Not only should that li’l fighter not have been there in the first place, it should have had full sun. (It was hidden under the crazy mums that come back every year. Found it when I cut back the mums killed by the deeper frosts.) And, the li’l bugger should NEVER have bloomed in early November, AFTER several frosts, a couple of which hit the mid-20s. (Hardy plant or inspiration that, given the right combination of circumstances, pretty much anything can get past the odds?)

vinca in Nov 2013  Crazy!

You know me. I am inspired.

Is it just me? Or have others run into similar experiences?

May you all feel gratitude, Thursday and every day–I know it keeps me peaceful!


Red, White, Blue and Two Quick Desserts Too!

Happy Fourth all! Hope those of you who celebrate are gearing up to do something fun before the fireworks! We’re double-blessed with those around here. We can watch them from the yard and then come on in to catch the Macy’s display in HD. Love it 🙂

Anyway, this morning I threw together three easy desserts for my holiday happenings. These are so quick and easy I promise you could get either the cobbler or the cheesecake done in under 30 minutes, plus 35 minutes baking or at least three hours refrigeration time, respectively. (You can easily prepare either or both and bake or refrigerate while guests arrive or while you’re BBQing with family and friends! The cookies take 45 minutes tops, including time in the oven. Had son take a photo of the cookies, but for some reason, the email didn’t come through. (We’ll save those for another day.)

Anyway, here’s the cobbler. (Recipe is here.)

bluberry cobbler 2

And this cheesecake is one of my favorites! (Recipe here.)

no bake cheesecake

Have a great day, folks! Celebrate safely, don’t get in a car with anyone other than a designated driver and watch out for those who drink and drive. (Sorry, the mommy in me comes out.)



Got All Dressed Up…

to wish all of you a happy, healthy, peaceful and blessing-filled 2013! Here’s to the best for all. My prayers and heart go out to all those whose hearts are heavy tonight. May you feel God’s peace and comfort!

At least the kitchen's clean and the hair behaved today :) I'll take it!
At least the kitchen’s clean and the hair behaved today 🙂 I’ll take it!

Be safe!


On the Fourth Day of Christmas…

Joanna sat long enough to greet her friends and followers!

Hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas! We’ve had a packed last few days over here: last minute shopping; party at sis-in-law’s Saturday and at my brother’s on Christmas eve and we hosted four on Christmas Day. I was so excited when I rediscovered my counter top and dining room table around 10:30 Christmas night, lol. It’s all good and made for another year of beautiful memories.

So, for those of you who engaged in the festivities, care to share?

I inadvertently walked into an ‘ugly sweater’ contest at school. Heard I garnered a few votes and wound up adding myself to the running at sis-in-law’s party. (Only hubby voted for me at that one. And he cheated: voted twice. Amanda really deserved the prize–and she got it.)

What say you? Should I have won?
What say you? Should I have won?

Tried getting a little creative with the fresh mozzarella platter. Other than that, I got lazy with food prep this year. (KISS worked for me. ;)) Just too much going on and not enough time. Thank God my younger son was so into decorating and wrapping. Not sure I would have enjoyed this particular Christmas season as much w/o his input.

I normally do this dish with tomatoes but went with roasted peppers and basil pesto this time.
I normally do this dish with tomatoes but went with roasted peppers and basil pesto this time.

So that’s it, I guess. How did you all spend your Christmas? And do you observe the twelve days of Christmas in any way? (I usually pick up a small gift for each family member for the Epiphany–a.k.a. the 12th day.) Not sure about other cultures, but the Italians observe it.

Tune in tomorrow for my thoughts on  an excellent weekend read!

Have a wonderful day, folks!



Unlikely Holiday Traditions?

Good day, everyone. Hope everyone is getting caught up with their holiday goings-on AND doing better than the NY Giants’ football team did this past Sunday. They were positively pulverized by the Falcons. I tuned out at 0-27 in the 4th quarter. Final score: 0-34. (They should have saved some of their points from last week’s game against the Saints, whom the Giants beat 52-27.)

Then there were last Friday’s heart-wrenching events—as recent superstorms hadn’t devastated people in the northeast enough. I keep trying to process the horrific happening and praying throughout the day for those impacted. Gratitude somehow keeps moving further front in the consciousness department.

That brings me to something I’m particularly thankful for: the opportunity to live out the traditions we’ve established as a family as time wears on. Rather than go into every one, I was thinking about those I never imagined I’d have. Of course I’ll illustrate then pass the blog wand for you to take a turn at sharing.

My family celebrates Christmas. As Italians, we’d do the fish dinner on Christmas Eve. (Can you believe, until last year, I didn’t know that tradition requires seven types of fish to be served? Obviously, we did not have that many types at my house. Most likely cost too much $$, lol.) Christmas Day included a pretty large dinner with immediate family—which most of the time is now held at my home—and a trip to my aunt’s afterward.

Pretty basic stuff, huh?

Here’s the one I could never have conceived as a kid. I am the oldest of three children. In May 1987, the older of my brothers died of leukemia, three weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.

My mom wore black for the following six years. (A tradition I dislike tremendously. Her friend’s son died three years earlier. She’s in mourning garb to this day.) Mom refused to do anything Christmas-related that year. Not sure she did a dinner.  No decorations. In the tradition of Italian mourning, no music was allowed (someone might think we weren’t unhappy), so I’d wait until she was at the other end of the house to turn on my stereo and play it so softly I had to sit next to the speaker to hear it.

Of course there was no Christmas tree either.

I insisted we have one and put up a traditional-style one (a Charlie Browner)—at the cemetery.

I’ve done so ever since. Hubby and my stepsons worked with me when they were young. Now me, hubby and my guys give my brother his ‘gift’ together.


This year, my mom bought a small artificial one for my uncle’s grave.

So, what unlikely tradition has become a regular part of your holiday season?

Have a great day, friends! Thanks for stopping by!


Fast Forward to Managing Holiday Stress!

Hi all,

Hope all is well with everyone! If I don’t get these posts into place the weekend before, life on the day-to-day gets so busy-nutty, I can’t make the time to catch up! Just last night, hubby-the-hero-not-a-plumber-but-gets-the-job-done (and I, the assistant) wound up making an  unscheduled trip to my mom’s to do an unexpected faucet installation. And seems every night something else is going on. It is what it is, right? (Though I offer no complaints. There are those in serious and dire situations. I am inconvenienced.)

But, that does tie nicely into…

Wow. As a kid there was no way I could understand why adults found the holiday season so stressful.  Christmas is only a small part of the pressure-I’m-feeling deal; all credit, too, to my younger son (14 y/o) who loves the decorating (inside and out), tree-trimming and gift-wrapping enough to take over most of it! Hubby handled lights inside so the place has a loverly glow in the evenings. They’ve done a phenomenal job and taken a lot of the work load off of me! Thanks, men!


I love Jack Henry, the rabbit. My first Christmas with hubby, my sisters-in-law (to be at the time) dumped JH on my lap and told me not to expect gifts in the future, lol.
I love Jack Henry, the rabbit. My first Christmas with hubby, my sisters-in-law (to be at the time) dumped JH on my lap and told me not to expect gifts in the future, lol.
This one is my favorite. My older guy was two and painted this creation. When I asked him what it was, he told me, "Santa's Footprints." It is now one of my standard Christmas decorations and will be until the day I pass it on to him.
This one is my favorite. My older guy was two and painted this creation. When I asked him what it was, he told me, “Santa’s Footprints.” It is now one of my standard Christmas decorations and will be until the day I pass it on to him.

Back to the original reason for this post! I’m sharing my dear friend Diane Lang’s article on handling the holiday season in a more peaceful, positive way. Here is the link to her most recent article! If it speaks to you, please feel free to share and possibly come back here to share your thoughts on her timely tips!

Have a wonderful day, everyone!


Wrapping Up the Christmas/Holiday Season 2011-12

As I put away the decorations and slowly return my home to it’s normal state of being, I ask you this:

Is there a gift you received from which you know you’ll get major mileage? Does it have special significance?

I did:

Hubby got me this incredible necklace–totally my taste.

The crazy part? Read this:

“A heart-shaped locket fell into her lap. Tiny, glittering silver-black marquasite encrusted it, surrounding an oval amethyst on an intricate silver chain.”

My hero gave this to his heroine in No Matter Why. Hubby never read the book yet I end up with this necklace that is so ridiculously close to the one I wrote about it’s scary. AND it’s an estate piece. My heroine’s was an antique–go figure.

Your turn–what was your favorite gift or memory this past holiday season?

See you later this week,